inexpensive 30 Gal Reef Tank.. Noob.


Reefing newb
So here is my questions. Can I inexpensively get into a saltwater reef setup with considering what I already have? I’m looking for recommendations on lights, pumps, filters, etc. I know I could just look up and find the least expensive products, but I don’t want to buy accessories that are just going to fail or make it much harder to manage my tank. I know that smaller tanks can be more difficult to care for, but unfortunately I don’t think I can afford anything else. So please if someone wants to list out the accessories and everything I need to get started with the price that would be amazing! Maybe I’m asking too much. Like I said, I know I could look around online but it seems there are so many filtration system options and if there are some that would work great with my setup that cost less, I’d love to hear it. That is where I’m getting stuck. Thanks everyone for your help. Hope this isn't asking too much!

Here is a little background if it helps....So I owned a couple of fresh water tanks when I was younger. I really enjoyed them and now (8 years later) I’m starting to think I would like to get into a marine reef tank. I’ve read about them for the past few months and I have learned a fair amount about them. Originally I thought I would wait until I had a decent budget and get a 55/70 gal tank to invest into. Well money isn’t getting much better, but I find I’d still like to look into getting myself a reef tank.

So as it is I still own my 30 gal fresh water tank (empty now) and stand. So I thought I would look into what all I would need to get to use my current tank to save myself a little money. It’s a little smaller than I’d like, but there is a good chance I’ll be moving within the next year or two. So maybe it’s better anyway.
Hi welcome,

How long has your 30 been empty? Have you ever used medications in it?
What kind of ( if any) equipment do you have ?
You'll need water pumps and lights I found a inexpensive wave maker by JBJ on they have some good prices on lots of equipment
Don't buy a hydrometer they are a wast of money get a refractometer.
Research, research, research, then research again. Pet stores will sell you anything, they are in the business of making money.
Well hello. I too have a small tank that manages to exceed my budget. As far as equipment goes, a 30 is a decent sized starter tank. A little small, but better than a 5.5 or 10.

That sd, you'll need lights, powerheads, and rock as your filtration. You'll want around 1.5 pounds per gallon along with whatever sand; which in a 30, probably 2x20 pound bags. Use dry rock and sand and just get 1 or 2 pieces of live rock. To cycle, toss in a piece of raw table shrimp and let it dissolve and your rock and sand will all be live by then.

For powerheads, I would recommend starting with two Koralia size 950 or similar and maybe add another if needed. The goal is no deadspots in your tank where detritus can build up. For lighting, I would suggest looking at the ReefBreeders value line of LED fixtures. A good T5 setup will easily cost more than that light, but you may go with 2 fixtures for a little better coverage. (Last I checked, a good T5HO was around $300-380, which is about the same as two of those LED's.)

Lastly, if you can swing it, a protein skimmer will be worth its value in gold. There's many hang-on types, but on a 30, it isn't really mandatory to have one. However, an in-sump one would be great if you can get a sump in your budget. A sump will also increase water volume and thus stability, but again, it isn't necessary. Most of your nutrient export will be in weekly water changes, anyways.

Some extras like a good test kit for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, dKh, calcium and magnesium are good, along with a good refractometer and of course salt mixing supplies (including salt).

Lastly, use RO/DI water, whether you buy it or buy a unit (which will pay itself off quickly).

I think that's about it. If you have any more questions, ask set, my friend.
Aquarian, kbuser92, Thank you for the reply!

So my tank has been empty for something like 8 years. I don't recall ever using medications in it, but maybe for ick (if thats even what its called). Most of the equipment I have is for a freshwater tank. Like the air pump for undergravel filter, I think I have a "bio wheel" and then the hood too. But I'm not even sure what of it all works or if I can use any of it on a saltwater setup. next time I see it i'll look a little more closely and see if there is anything else that I have.

What is a refractometer? A more accurate way of ready the salinity of the tank?

Kbuser, thank you for the equipment recommendations. I'll look into them a little more! Also, I need to read more about lighting, because I'm not really familiar with the different types that you listed and not sure what I need. I'd like to have some corals in my tank so I assume I'll need a particular type of lighting.

As far as a protein skimmer. And recommendations on a good one that is a hang out. I'd like to save as much space in my tank as possible so on that sits on the outside is a plus for me :) Also, I'd love to get a sump setup, but what is the minimum kind of budget I'd be looking at for my 30 gallon tank? I'd love some recommendations.

Lastly what is RO/DI Water? I read a whole book on setting up a saltwater tank, its probably time I had a refresher. ha Because I'm not remembering all that I thought I would. Thanks for all the help!!

I'll recommend you to wash the tank up with a mix of vinegar and water (1/4 the vinegar for a gallon of water) leave it for a few minutes and then wash it out with a lot water. I did that with my tank before I set it up, just to make sure it's clean.

As far as I know you don't need the air pump. They are fine for freshwater fish but not for the saltwater fish. I have an emperor 400 filter in my tank and I don't have a sump or a skimmer. I can tell you that at the beginning, it was very difficult for me to avoid the algae blooms in my tank with my filter. I was overfeeding my fish and the filter pads in my Emperor were a nitrates factory. Now I'm doing better with it, but I'm gonna change the filter pads for dry live rock rubble. As soon as I finish curing them.

A refractometer is a device for reading the salinity in the water you can find more information here: Refractometer for reading salinity w/ Free Calibration fluid - Bulk Reef Supply
I bought mine from BRS and is one of the best purchase I've done. Don't buy a hydrometer. I did it and is a waste of money.

If you want to go with the sump maybe you have to DIY because those are a little expensive, but with one, the volume of water in your tank will be bigger and that's good. Small reef tanks are more difficult to have under control than bigger tanks.

RO/DI water stands for Reverse Osmosis/Deionization what this means is that the water would be extremely pure. With this kind of water the good thing is that you don't have to worry for adding too many nutrients to your tank (they can cause serious algae blooms) or additives that can damage your fish or corals. I bought this one on BRS BRS 5 Stage PLUS RO/DI System - 75GPD - Bulk Reef Supply. I have no idea how big is your budget, but the RO/DI system can be very expensive, but It is a good investment if you are planning to continue with the hobby in the long run.

Just remember to do a lot of research and a lot of questions too if you have any doubts. And don't forget shopping around to find good prices.

Good Luck! :Cheers: